Let the play begin!
Now that the match is firmly in the hands of the Bulgarian organizers, the press conference and opening ceremonies going off without any problem, and the Icelandic vulcano no longer able to cause any more worries to either Anand or Topalov, the public anxiously awaits for the games to begin. The first game is scheduled for this Saturday. The second follows quickly the day after.
In the meantime, there is lots to see on the official website that the Bulgarian organizers have put together. Great photos, interviews, videos and much more. The games will also be transmitted live via that site. The 3 videos below (the press conference, and short histories of our two heroes) are taken from this site.
As pointed out in an earlier blog entry, both players have met over the board many times (more than 50!) and the score is relatively balanced. However, I am certain that neither player is focused on their past history: the importance of playing for the official world title , and infront of the entire world, means that an entirely new set of circumstances has arisen. Both players are (or should be) consumed by the present situation in Sofia.
Topalov will play with the White pieces in the first game! What will he play?
I suppose that both Topalov and Anand will mostly play 1.d4 in this match. The move 1.e4 is also in their repetoire, but unless you have something good against the Petroff or the Najdorf , the Black pieces can get a satisfactory game just by memorizing a lot of trendy variations. Strange though it might sound, 1.e4 is not a very effective match weapon! Besides, both Topalov and Anand have excellent results with 1.d4
In the 2006 world championship match with Kramnik, Topalov started the match miserably. In the first game he had Black and equalized fairly easily. Rather than play for a draw , Topalov tried to outplay the Russian, and to some extent did (he achieved the better chances in a drawn ending). But then disaster struck when Topalov made an unforced error (a terrible blunder) that cost him the game.
In the second game, Topalov (with the White pieces) played a brilliant game and built up a completely winning position, only to find himself in time trouble and once more lose. So after two games the Bulgarian found himself being the stronger player, but with a two point deficit!
I think that this time Topalov will follow a more prudent course. Certainly for the games this weekend, the Bulgarian will focus more on the practical aspects of the game (especially the clock) and not try to push for a win with each move. Topalov is more mature now, and the painful experience against Kramnik (where he lost his world title) has made him a much tougher and more intelligent competitor. 12 games is a long enough match for the stronger player to prove himself…
As for Anand, being the title holder carries with it some extra burden: he must show that he can play like a world champion, something that his recent results have not indicated. In the photos from yesterday’s activities, we can see a smiling Anand with a few extra kilos around his waste. This is probably a good thing, something recommended by his advisers. Anatoly Karpov, when he was in his early 40’s, also had something of a gut and this actually helped him deal with the intense tension and anxieties that accompany high level chess.
So far the Indian superstar has been very secretive about which grandmasters are on his team. From what I can piece together, it is quite a large team! Whether this is a good thing or not, we will have to see. Normally one would include a few extra grandmasters in your team for the purpose of them actually teaching you how to play their specialty opening variations!
No doubt Anand has some surprises in mind for the upcoming match with Topalov, but we must not forget that none of his team members would last more than a few games in a match against the Bulgarian! The trick is to catch your opponent unprepared, unfamiliar and then throw something new at him! Good luck…
I expect a very interesting and tight match. Opinions amongst my colleagues vary, but mine is that at present Topalov is a big favourite (provided he not push too hard). I feel that Anand is not at his best, and is in some sort of a personal crisis. His latest results have been disappointing.
That being said, Anand is a great player who can never be counted out. He has shown that he can beat anyone in the world, with either colour and from any opening. I certainly do not underestimate the Indian superstar!
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS